Three Reasons Parents
Can’t Afford to Think
“My Kid will Never Use Drugs”

Emergency Room

In the last two decades, a whole new world of drug abuse and addiction with dangerous, and even deadly, consequences has opened up. One after another, changes in drug supply and distribution has made more drugs more readily available to Americans in every corner of the country. The result has been a constant increase of the number of drug overdose deaths. The situation is such that now, no parent can afford to think that their child will be the one that never uses drugs, never becomes addicted and will never overdose.

Here are three reasons why any parent who currently has that idea should reconsider. These influences could have more power over their teens than their own warnings about drugs.

The “Normalization” of Marijuana Use

Pro-marijuana lobbyists have been effective in increasing the legalization and availability of marijuana across the country. This recent map shows just how effective.

Light orange states have limited access to cannabis products with high levels of cannabidiol (the non-intoxicating component used more frequently in medical treatments) and low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary intoxicant.

Deep orange states permit sales of medical marijuana of all types.

Deep blue states have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana.

States and their levels of marijuana legality.

New science supports the therapeutic effect of some components of cannabis, primarily cannabidiol. But the whole herb itself is intoxicating, damaging and addictive and for many people, makes the transition to an even more damaging drug easy.

Widespread availability of this addictive drug now sends a clear and loud message to youth: Marijuana is a medical product and harmless. The use of marijuana becomes normalized to the point that some parents in recreational states are using it WITH their children. However, when a person begins to use marijuana at a young age, the risk of addiction is higher.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

“People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.”

Among daily users, the addiction rate is between 25% and 50%.

Pro-marijuana groups like NORML intend to fully legalize marijuana across the country which would turn the “normalization” message up to full volume. Depending on where you live, your children may now or soon be faced with dispensaries, advertising and friends with a plentiful supply of weed.

Some significant facts about youth and drug use.

Youth are surrounded by references to drug and alcohol use in their songs and movies.

Look at this analysis of movies and music from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The next chart (below) shows the increasing number of major motion pictures that featured drug or alcohol use as a dominant theme from 1966 through 2010. Your children are exposed to the continuous influence of drug and alcohol use—in most cases, without also being exposed to the damaging or even deadly consequences that are possible.

Chart showing drug-themed movies each year.

Lack of sober role models.

Among athletes, musicians, actors, models and other figures that serve as role models for young people, a minority are openly sober. Rather the reverse—many derail their careers with drug or alcohol abuse and require rehab, sometimes multiple times. Some, like Rhianna and Miley Cyrus, openly wear marijuana-themed clothing and promote drug use. But others go on the record about their new sobriety after rehab, as Robert Downey, Jr., Jamie Lee Curtis and Matthew Perry have done. Some athletes visit schools and talk about their recoveries and try to prevent youth from taking that same path, like NBA star Chris Herren.

But there’s only a few young stars to inspire our youth. Daniel Radcliffe, Tobey Maguire, James Franco and Macklemore have all been public about their sobriety after earlier problems.

The most important role models for a child are his own parents and other close family. Parents start the ball rolling by setting a good example for children and ensuring other influential people around the children do the same thing.

It’s a tough environment that doesn’t make it easy for children to remain sober through to their adulthoods. It’s vital for parents to be actively involved in children’s lives and vigilant to detect drug or alcohol use. It’s also vital that parents act as sober role models.

It is possible to help a child grow up drug-free and alcohol-free. According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Addiction, if a child makes it to 21 without drinking or using drugs, he is virtually certain to never have a problem with substance abuse. This is a worthwhile goal—and certainly one that deserves a parent’s full attention.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.